Notes from the Hugo House Writers’ Conference, Part II

By Midge Raymond,

  Filed under: Events, News, On Publishing, On Reading, On Writing

Okay, now on to Day 2 of the Richard Hugo House Writers’ Conference.

After much coffee on Sunday morning, I presented Think Outside the Book — a session on the myriad ways to market one’s book. We talked about Web sites, social media, blogs, building one’s platform, and the importance of “think not what your local bookstore can do for you, but what you can do for your local bookstore.” Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts from the session:

  • DO be generous (with readers, other authors, bookstores, etc.).
  • DO be flexible. Be open to new ideas for events, readings, etc.
  • DO team up with other authors for support and joint events, and to share ideas.
  • DO be prepared not only to do your own legwork but to spend your own money. Depending on your publishing contract, you may have to cover many promotional expenses yourself, from travel to your web site to postcards and bookmarks.
  • DO keep your blog open to comments, and DO take the time to respond.
  • DON’T be all about you, all the time. Don’t tweet or update Facebook so incessantly that you risk tiring your followers/friends. Be relevant and interesting.
  • DON’T automatically connect all social media; think about how you can use each platform to best highlight your work to different audiences.
  • DON’T take bad reviews or nasty comments personally, and don’t respond to them. You can’t please everyone, and you don’t need to. Engage only with those who are positive and supportive.

After my own session, I sat in on poet Kelli Russell Agodon‘s fantastic workshop on applying for grants and residencies. As both a winner of numerous grants and residencies as well as a panelist on award committees, Kelli had some terrific advice. Among the gems: Set yourself apart (selection committees read hundreds of applications, so it’s important to stand out); keep it simple (don’t offer too much information, which can be distracting, and remember that committees can be very diverse — send a work sample that connects with people on a human level rather than a strictly artistic one); and follow the guidelines exactly (one of the surest ways to be disqualified for a grant/residency is to have an incomplete application). She also emphasized that often winning is all about luck and timing, and quoted Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

Attorney Mark Wittow’s session Know Your Rights provided a great overview of legal issues for writers, focusing mostly on copyright laws. I learned a couple of new and interesting things — for example, that research data is not protected by copyright (only the expression of the facts is protected). Copyright laws are fairly complex, but writers with questions can visit the U.S. Copyright Office web site for more info. Also, for a $20 donation, Washington writers and artists can visit a free legal clinic run by Washington Lawyers for the Arts.

This blog can in no way summarize the entire weekend, and it can’t capture the wonderful energy of so many writers together for two straight days, sharing ideas and information and enthusiasm. If you couldn’t make it this year, stay tuned to Hugo House, and register early for next year’s conference.

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